Tag Archives: tv

Vietnam War Fantastic

I got the idea to write this post from watching Ken Burn’s latest documentary The Vietnam War. In the past, for reasons unknown, I never had any interest in the Vietnam War even though I have some vague memories of its aftereffects (the war ended in 1975, I was born in 1984) thanks to the pop culture of the ’80s and early ’90s. I also remember as a child seeing legless Vietnamese/Cambodian men in wheelchairs due to left over land mines from that war.

But until Burns’ series, I never had any interest in the Vietnam War. Maybe because it was too long (it lasted from 1955-1975, 20 years total), too bloody and too divisive, so divisive in the US (and Vietnam of course) that you could say the ’60s was the second Civil War. To this very day, the war still is still a sensitive subject – just ask any baby boomer.

And maybe its controversial nature is why authors tend to shy away from the Vietnam War as a setting for works of SF, fantasy and horror. But there are exceptions. Eleven of them to be exact, and they range from short stories to an award-winning classic novel. So pop in your favorite ’60s/’70s rock album (I suggest The Best of the Guess Who because of course I do) and peruse this list of fantastical works set during a war that changed America (and Vietnam) forever.

Short Stories

“Fellow Americans” by Eileen Gunn (From the anthology Alternate Presidents)

Lyndon B. Johnson – commonly known as LBJ – loses the 1964 election to Barry Goldwater, who, as president, drops nuclear weapons on Vietnam, thus winning the war. Goldwater wins a second term in 1968 and serves as POTUS until 1973. Oh and Richard Nixon quit politics and became a talk show host.

“Suppose They Gave a Peace” by Susan Shwartz (also from Alternate Presidents and The Way It Wasn’t)

George McGovern is elected in 1972 and attempts an immediate withdrawal from the war, but that doesn’t stop the North Vietnamese from advancing towards Saigon.

“Murdering Uncle Ho” by Chris Bunch (from the anthology Alternate Generals III)

JFK survived his assassination, and draws the US deeper into the Vietnam conflict after the Gulf of Tonkin Incident which leads to a North Vietnamese invasion in 1965.

Comics

Watchmen – Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (1986-87)

This graphic novel needs no introduction. Ask any comic book nerd about it and they’ll speak in reverential tones about how this series changed the comic book industry for better and for worse. Thanks to the intervention of superheroes – the living weapon Dr. Manhattan in particular (and the Comedian – though he was more of a combatant) – the US won the Vietnam War. But for every action, there’s a reaction…

Spider-‘Nam

This is more of a case of What Could Have Been. James Stokoe wrote and drew a couple of (unpublished) pages imagining Spider-Man as a combatant in the Vietnam War. He learns that the catch-phrase “with great power, comes great responsibility” takes on a whole new meaning during wartime. It appears that this comic wont be published any time soon but if it is, it’ll be the first Spider-Man comic I’d be interested in reading. You can look at the pages here.

Video Games

Shellshock 2: Blood Trails

A 2009 first-person shooter that tells the story of G.I. Private Nate Walker, who is sent to Vietnam in 1969 and learns, to his horror, that a scientist has unleashed a contagion that turns humans into zombie creatures (because zombies and war go together like peanut butter and jelly) which includes his older brother Cal. Your mission is to find Cal in the jungles of Southeast Asia, fight zombies and the Viet Cong, who’d like to get their hands on that virus.

(you will not love the smell of naplam in the morning)

Role-Playing Games

Weird Wars: Tour of Darkness

I’m not good at describing RPGs because I’ve never played them, but I think TV Tropes does a better job summarizing the Weird Wars franchise:

Pinnacle Games published a Weird Wars line of d20 games taking place in Real Life past and future wars with supernatural additions. For example, Weird War II had the PCs playing Allied soldiers during World War II, but the Nazis had mutant soldiers, characters could use haunted vehicles and cast spells, and there were monsters. Lots of monsters. The updated re-release of the game line for Savage Worlds so far includes World War I (“Weird War I”), World War II (“Weird War II”), The Vietnam War (“Tour Of Darkness”), and the Roman Empire and its campaigns of conquest (“Weird Wars Rome”).

And Amazon provides more details:

Our first follow-up to our smash hit Weird Wars in the new Savage Worlds system takes us to the jungles of Vietnam. Your grunt has 365 days and a wake-up to learn what really lurks in the jungle. Surviving is tough enough, but if your GI is really on the ball, he just might get drafted into the super-secret Phoenix Program and discover far more than he ever wanted about the Plain of Jars and the secret cults of the high mountains. Tour of Darkness features new Sanity rules and how to deal with mind-numbing horror, a ton of Edges & Hindrances, new horrors, and an awesome Adventure Generator and Plot Points to tell the most savage of tales!

Novels

The Forever War Joe Haldeman (1975)

Joe Haldeman served in Vietnam as a combat engineer. He expressed his experiences (the terror of combat, the indifference of government bureaucracy, the futility of the war and the sense of coming back to an unrecognizable world) in the military sci-fi award-winning novel The Forever War which tells the story of William Mandella, a UNEF soldier who is drafted into the war between Earth and the Taurans. Fighting an endless war is tough enough but for Mandella and his fellow soldiers, the tougher part is going home…

Television

“In Praise of Pip” – The Twilight Zone, Season 5, Episode 1 (Broadcast date: 9/27/63)

This episode is noted for addressing the Vietnam War long before the anti-war movement came to prominence. A corrupt bookie (Jack Klugman) is shot by one of his clients. He learns before hand that his son was wounded in South Vietnam and prays that God would take his life in exchange for his son’s. But before he dies, he gets one last chance to be a good father…

twilight-zone-season-5-1-in-praise-of-pip-episode-121-jack-klugman-bill-mundy-review-guide-list

A later season 5 episode makes an eerie side reference to Vietnam. “I Am the Night – Color Me Black” tells the story of an innocent man who will be hanged for murder at sunrise. But the sun never rises and the sky stays dark. After the execution, a reverend tells the public that the sky will get blacker and blacker as long as hate persists. But the little town isn’t the only place covered in darkness. Just see for yourself:

Manga

Apocalypse Meow by Motofumi Kobayashi

In Japan this manga goes by a very different title that can’t be repeated here. So in the US its retitled Apocalypse Meow as a play on the famous film Apocalypse Now.

All soldiers are represented as animals – Americans are rabbits, Vietnamese are cats, etc. Three American soldiers – Bota, Perky and Rats – go about their daily activities as members of a reconnaissance group in Vietnam. Click here for more details.

So what do you think, readers? Did I miss something? Should there be more works set during the Vietnam War or should we let sleeping dogs lie? Say your thing, man.

 

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Alternate History, fantasy, science fiction, speculative fiction

In Memoriam: Adam West 1928-2017

A sad day for comic book fans. Adam West, 60s icon and our original Batman, succumbed to Leukemia on June 9th and I found out on Twitter late Saturday, June 10th. Batman has always been a part of my life. I would occasionally see reruns on television as a kid, thinking it was a straight up action show, unaware of the camp factor. Then it came back into my life when in 2002 TV Land added it to its schedule by airing a “Batmanathon” hosted by Adam West himself.  Last year, I was able to buy all three seasons – digitally remastered – on DVD.

Batman was not Batman without Adam West. The man knew how to deliver campy lines with a straight face, but not take the role too seriously. Can you imagine any one else in that role doing the same thing? I can’t. Maybe it helped that he had that distinctive voice which helped him land voice over roles in his later years. Just yesterday, I watched “Beware the Gray Ghost”, an episode of Batman: The Animated Series in which West lent his voice to the character of Simon Trent, a washed up actor who portrayed a childhood hero of Bruce Wayne’s, The Gray Ghost, and helps Batman catch a serial bomber. It’s one of the most touching episodes of the series as it shows Batman helping a down on his luck actor come to the realization that his role as the Gray Ghost wasn’t a waste but an inspiration to others. It was also art imitating life as for years West found it hard to find roles due to being typecast as Batman. But those that grew up watching Batman in the 1960s never forgot the Batmania that swept the country and turned Adam West and Burt Ward into superstars. Despite disappointment from some die-hard fans than the series betrayed the comic’s more serious roots, some (myself included) are finding the series to be a breath of fresh air in an age of a dire, gloomy Dark Knights. You can keep your Keatons, your Bales, your Kilmers and your Afflecks, Adam West … is … Batman and I’m sad that I never got to meet him. But he will live on in the roles he played on television and on Thursday, June 15th, the Mayor of Los Angeles will light a Bat-Signal in honor of West.

In the meantime, let’s list some of the most memorable (and hilarious) quotes uttered by the Caped Crusader:

“I’ll stand at the bar. I shouldn’t wish to attract attention.” – Hi Diddle Riddle 

“What a terrible way to go-go.” – Smack in the Middle

“If you can’t trust Santa, then who can you trust?” – I’m not sure which episode this one comes from but it was one of the famous “window cameos”.

“I’d like to think that it’s because our hearts are pure.” – Or this one but it’s more than likely a Catwoman (Julie Newmar) episode.

“Boys and girls, go back to your studies. Believe me, nothing in life is free!” – The Joker Goes to School

“Bartender, a bit of advice. Always inspect a jukebox carefully. These machines can be deadly.” – He Meets His Match, the Grisly Ghoul

“Another trap! And I intend to walk right into it.” – The Bookworm Turns

“Batman to Gotham City police, Batman to Gotham City police! Red alert, red alert! We are trapped inside a cookbook at 5th & Cedar!” – While Gotham City Burns

“It fits like my glove!” – Death in Slow Motion

“You owe your life to dental hygiene.” – The Riddler’s False Notion

“Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb!” – Batman the Movie

“Man cannot live by crime-fighting alone.” – Batman’s Waterloo

Goodnight and Godbless Mr. West. We will never forget you.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under comics, DC Comics, television, tv superheros

Great Cat Moments In SF & F History

October 29 was National Cat Day! I love cats. On Planet X, I celebrate National Cat Day by putting together a list of the furriest, most purrrfffect characters, stories and moments in my other love – science fiction! Because, believe it or not, cats and sci-fi go together like wet food and a ball of yarn. So, without further ado, in no particular order, here’re the best feline moments in sci-fi.

ripley_and_jonesy

Jonesy (Alien)

Ripley was the last survivor of the Nostromo right? Wrong! She had company. Jones (or Jonesy) the ship’s cat also successfully escaped the alien’s clutches. His most memorable moment was when Brett, the ship’s engineer, tries to call Jones to him but Jones is too distracted by the thing that’s slowly creeping down from the ceiling behind Brett. The camera switches from the alien snatching Brett to a closeup of Jonesy’s face. The 1979 film ends with Jonesy relaxing on Ripley’s lap as she gives her final report before going into stasis.

Image result for star trek assignment earth

Isis the Cat

Does it surprise you that Spock has an affinity for cats? Me neither. The last episode of Star Trek‘s second season, “Assignment: Earth”, has the Enterprise traveling to the past to research Earth’s history only to discover a mysterious man with a cat has energized aboard the ship. That man is agent Gary Seven, a human raised on another planet who’s mission is to travel through time to prevent other agents from altering Earth’s history. His constant companion is a cat named Isis who possessed the ability to take on a human form and to communicate telepathically. Originally “Assignment: Earth” was intended to be a backdoor pilot to a spinoff series about Gary Seven, his cat, Isis and his assistant Roberta Lincoln but it never got off the ground. However, their further adventures are told in the Gary Cox duology The Eugenics Wars.

ThunderCats

If your a child of the eighties like me, chances are you may remember watching this show at some point. Created by the ironically named Ted “Tobin” Wolf and airing from 1985 to 1989, ThunderCats revolved around a group of feline humanoid aliens – each resembling a species of wild cat – fleeing their doomed planet Thundera and. The group consisted of central protagonist Lion-O, Cheetara, Snarf, Tygra, Panthro, and the siblings WilyKit and WilyKat as they fight the Mutants of Plun-Darr and adjust to their new lives on Third Earth. As you may have guessed, there was a toy line.

cringer battlecat_filmation

Cringer/Battle Cat

Lion-O and the gang weren’t the only cats to rule the airwaves. The wildly popular He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983-1985) had Prince Adam/He-Man’s faithful pet/steed Cringer, a green and orange tiger who was a scaredy-cat (literally) and could turn into a fierce, bridled tiger with the help of He-Man’s sword. He also was immortalized in toy form.

catwoman_0007

Catwoman

Next to Wonder Woman, DC’s Catwoman (Selena Kyle) is one of comics most recognizable and inspirational characters – even if her reputation is unsavory. She’s been around since 1940 and is still going strong. She’s been portrayed by Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether, Eartha Kitt, Michelle Pfeiffer, Halle Berry, Anne Hathaway and Carmen Bicondova. She’s also been voiced by Adrienne Barbeau, Grey DeLisle, Eliza Dushku and others. IGN ranked her at number 11 on their “Top 100 Comic Book Villains of All Time” list.

catman-dc-comi-cs-secret-six-thomas-blake-d

Catman

Not to be outdone is DC’s other “cat burglar” Catman, who was really Thomas Blake, a hunter turned criminal who often went cowl to cowl with Batman. Like his more famous female counterpart, he’s been retconned into an anti-hero involved with the Secret Six. Under the pen of Gail Simone, Catman has gained more recognition.

Cat People (1942)

Considered to be the definitive Val Lewton film, this horror classic tells the story of a young Serbian woman’s fear that she will turn into a deadly black panther if she’s ever sexually aroused or angered. Her fears come true when she falls in love with an American man… The film is famous for its low budget and its cinematography.

cat-returns

The Cat Returns (2002)

From Studio Ghibli comes a coming-of-age tale about a teenage girl named Haru who finds herself in a “cat kingdom” as the unwilling bride-to-be for their prince. It up to the dashing Baron von Gikkingen, his aide Muta and a bird named Toto to infiltrate the palace of the Cat King and free Haru. The English dub of this Japanese film included the voices of Anne Hathaway, Cary Elwes, Peter Boyle and Tim Curry.

23a_cheshire_cat

Dinah and the Cheshire Cat

How could I leave Alice in Wonderland off this list? It boasts two iconic cats: Alice’s cherished cat, Dinah (who acts as a beacon of hope to the lost, confused Alice) and of course, the Cheshire Cat, who has all the best lines in the book. Dinah was based on the Liddell’s family’s (who were close friends of Lewis Carroll) tabby cat while the Cheshire Cat is based on the expression “to grin like a Cheshire cat.” Cheshire was also Carroll’s birthplace.

aslan-narnia-320x480

Aslan, Son of the Emperor-Over-the-Sea

The creator and king of Narnia. He is a alternative version of Jesus Christ and is the only character to appear in all seven books of the Narnia series. He’s loved by all Narnians and feared by all his enemies. He is not a tame lion.

23340-_uy475_ss475_

Tailchaser’s Song

I haven’t read this 1985 book by Tad Williams but I remember an illustration of a Toothguard by Wayne Barlowe. Anyway Fritti Tailchaser is a sentient feral cat who sets out on a quest to find a missing friend. Rumor has it, there will be an animated adaptation in 2018 (CGI unfortunately).

To Visit the Queen

A 1998 steampunk  time traveling adventure by Diane Duane in which an evil entity travels to Victorian England to introduce nuclear weapons (ahead of schedule) to the British Empire and assassinate Queen Victoria along the way. It’s up to four cat “wizards”, their dinosaur ally, and a young Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to stop “The Lone Power” from destroying the world.

Muuurgh the Togorian

A character that appears in A.C. Crispin’s Han Solo Trilogy, Muuurgh was a feline humanoid that was assigned as Han Solo bodyguard on the planet Ylesia. In reality Muuurgh was looking for his mate-to-be Mrrov, who had gotten tangled up with a shady cult. Muuurgh and Han Solo become good friends (remember, this is before Han met Chewbacca) and help free Mrrov and other members from the clutches of the “cult”. Han later serves as Muuurgh’s best man at Muuurgh and Mrrov’s wedding and the happy couple become parents to three kits.

phantasms3

Spot the cat

Data the android always wanted to learn what it was like to be human. One of those ways was to own a pet, which turned out to be his cat, Spot, who was an orange tabby. Spot appeared in many episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Data loved her dearly.

 catfantastic4pic

The Catfantastic Series

Rowwrrr! How could I have forgotten this on my list. A collection of fantasy stories about Man’s Best Friend (admit it) edited by Andre Norton and Martin H. Greenberg. The first book was published in 1989 and it’s fourth and final sequel was published in 2009.

Meow! Agree with my list. What other cat related titles, characters and stories have I missed. Sound off in the comments and maybe I’ll add them.

For an added bonus, here’s some pictures of your favorite SF/F authors with their felines.

Ursula K. LeGuin

68e73d7ccc6b47e46db05aab945e78aa

Philip K. Dick

2015%2f11%2f21%2f55%2fgettyimages-20dad

Ray Bradbury

d0c09593fffc951e4f0072d5bdeb7fd7

Neil Gaiman

enhanced-buzz-9619-1346957690-8

Stephen King

Stephen King

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under science fiction

“Ewoks: The Battle for Endor” Review

 

Ewoks-the-Battle-For-Endor

Warning: Some spoilers but not too many details.

This November, another Star Wars film will be turning the big 3-0, but it wasn’t released in theaters. It was released on television, November 24, 1985, yet the story takes place before Return of the Jedi. It’s a sequel to Caravan of Courage and if you want to learn more about that film, read this excellent post by my girl, Lazypadawan. In fact it was her article that made me want to watch the film on YouTube. I watched the film and it wasn’t until the end that I realized I had watched the wrong film. Oops. Oh well. I loved it anyway and I watched it again on May the 4th of this year. Before I talk about the story, let me share some background information about the production for the film.

Despite the success of Caravan of Courage, directors Jim and Ken Wheat were disappointed with the results and told Lucas they wanted to make another film starring the Towani family. During the story board sessions, George Lucas revealed that he had just watched Heidi with his daughter, Amanda and decided to make Cindel an orphan and have her befriend a grumpy old man who lived in the woods of Endor who would adopt her. So that means killing off her family folks!

Among the cast was Warwick Davis, who was reprising his role as Wicket (and speaking perfect English), Aubree Miller as Cindel, Wilford Brimley as Noa, Carel Struycken as Terak, leader of the Sanyassen Mauraders and Sian Phillips as Charal, a Nightsister.

Now on to the story.

Cindel tells Wicket that she will be leaving Endor with her family soon but then she gets a message that her family is in danger. They return to the Ewok village to find it’s under attack from Sanyassen Mauraders who’ve killed most of its inhabitants, including her parents and brother and enslaved the survivors, among them Wicket and Cindel. With the help of the other Ewoks, they escape into the forrest, are nearly attacked by a condor dragon and are cold and hungry to boot.

Enter Teek, a little imp who runs superfast but has a kind heart. He leads Cindel and Wicket to an empty home where they can stay for awhile. Like a scene out of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, the girl and the Ewok clean up the home and make some dinner. But uh-oh, who’s this coming up the path? It’s Noa, a grumpy old hermit who actually owns the house and he’s not happy with intruders. Eventually he comes to accept Cindel and Wicket as house guests and even helps Cindel get over her family’s deaths (the dialogue in the scene would be used again in the 1988 film, The Land Before Time, produced by Lucas). We also learn that Noa has a crashed ship in the forest which he’s been trying to fix since the day he came to Endor many years ago.

Meanwhile, back at the castle of Terak, king of the Mauraders, Terak is throwing a fit because he has a power generator that he thinks will give him “the power”. He threatens his lackey, the Nightsister, Charal, with death unless she brinsg him the girl, believing that she knows how to harness “the power”. Charal takes the form of a raven and flies off. She finds Cindel, captures her, and takes her to the castle.

Cindel tells Terak that she knows nothing about magic and that he’s mistaken about the source of this “power”. Enraged, he throws Cindel in prison with the aforementioned captured Ewoks. But fear not, star warriors! Noa, Wicket and Teek are here to save the day! They break into the castle, free Cindel and the Ewoks and a battle ensues. Terak is killed, Charal loses her powers, the Marauders are defeated and Endor is free to fight the Empire! Hooray! With a fixed ship and a new family, Cindel says goodbye to Teek and the Ewoks and she and Noa fly off.

What I like about this film is that it’s the first Star Wars film to have two female leads: Cindel is without a doubt, the hero of the story and her adversary is the Nightsister, Charal. This is also our first introduction to a Nightsister a type of dark arts, force wielder that would be explored further in The Courtship of Princess Leia and later The Clone Wars. It’s a film that every female star warrior should see considering the recent demand for more female inclusion in the GFFA. My only dislike of this film is that Peter Bernstein (son of Elmer) didn’t incorporate any of John Williams’ music (not even the “Ewok Parade” theme) into the score.

I also wish that Lucasfilm would create merchandise tie-ins for this movie: a Teek plush toy, action figures of Cindel, Noa, Charal, Terak, Wicket and Teek. Maybe Disney will do it, but I doubt it.

Nevertheless, this film is a great addition to your Star Wars DVD collection.

Ewoks_Battle_for_Endor

Teek_and_wicket

star-wars-ewoks-the-battle-for-endor-1985-cindel-noa-aubree-miller-wilford-brimley-bad-touch-review

Charal

20080104terak

2 Comments

Filed under Star Wars